JAC’s Board of Directors
If you believe in our work and would like to be considered for a seat on our Board, please click here to learn more.
Johnsenia Fe Brooks, Interim Chair
Originally from the Bronx, NY, Johnsenia is a first generation Honduran-American. She began working as a paralegal for the Innocence Project in June 2020. Prior to onboard at the IP, Johnsenia was an educator at the Arlington County (VA) jail where she developed a novel literature curriculum, served as an intake specialist at the local Public Defenders Service, and advocated for exoneration in a wrongful conviction case as a part of her class, “Making an Exoneree.” She produced an award winning documentary related to this exoneree work. Johnsenia earned her undergraduate degree in Government and Psychology with a minor in French from Georgetown University in 2020. When she’s not working, she curates a financial literacy blog on instagram (@themoneymovemaker), sharing money saving tips and motivational quotes, busting money myths, and spotlighting women of color owned brands.
Victoria Siciliano, Vice Chair
Victoria is an artist and activist from Montevideo, Uruguay. Her migration experience to Alabama–along with its legacy of civil rights struggle–contributed heavily to shaping her values and aspirations. She works as Communications Director for the Positive Women’s Network-USA, a national organization building the leadership of women and people of trans experience living with HIV. Previously, Victoria spent nearly a decade in the immigrants’ rights movement in Alabama, developing a passion for grassroots storytelling and movement arts (screen-printing, puppet-making, popular theater) while centering cultural expression, joy, healing, and rebellion. Her experience organizing alongside detained and incarcerated people in particular has drawn her to seek a deeper commitment to abolition and decriminalization.
Marissa Gutierrez-Vicario, Secretary
Marissa Gutierrez-Vicario (she/her) is Artist-in-Residence at the Initiative for a Just Society at Columbia University. As a committed human rights and peace-building activist, artist, and educator, Marissa launched a non-profit arts organization based in New York City to help young people amplify their voices and organize for human rights change in their communities through the visual arts. Currently, Marissa serves as an Adjunct Lecturer at the City College of New York in the Art Education department.
Theo Mendez, Treasurer
Theo’s love for the arts is rooted in music. He found a passion in music through his band, the Electricians, and works as Head of Catalog at Snafu Records, an independent record label. Prior to Snafu, he invested in software startups at Insight Partners, a venture capital firm based in New York. Theo’s introduction to non-profit work was in Strategic Planning at Ashoka, an organization that empowers and mobilizes social entrepreneurs to create an “everyone a changemaker world.”
Originally from San Antonio, Texas, Brett Gonzalez is an artist currently incarcerated in a federal facility in Ft. Worth, Texas. When first imprisoned a friend encouraged expression through drawing as a coping mechanism for his new environment. Inspired by this new sense of empowerment, he enrolled in the institution’s Hobby Craft program where he received a surprisingly thorough art education from another inmate. Brett’s deep love of art, found in an unlikely environment, fuels his desire to support other system impacted artists as they discover art for themselves. Brett is the author of Pandemic Lockdowns as Pathways to Empathy, published in Mississippi Quarterly’s Special Issue on Mass Incarceration in the US South.
Keisha Ann Lopes
Keisha Ann is a second-year law student at the University of Illinois Chicago School of Law. She is currently serving as President for UIC’s Black Law Students Association chapter and serves as the Chair for the UIC Racial Minority Coalition. Working with a Chicago organization, Keisha Ann helps register incarcerated people to vote directly through the Cook County jail. She is involved in various other organizations and committees that promote and advance racial and social justice. While in school, Keisha Ann works as a law clerk working on family immigration and asylum cases. Despite being in law school, Keisha Ann has held a passion for art since she was a childhood. She recalls going to art camp each summer as a child, planting the seed for her passion of the arts. As she learned how to sew by the age of 9, Keisha Ann began to sew her own clothes and purses. As she concludes law school, Keisha Ann has begun working to develop her own fashion line.
JAC’s Advisory Council
We are still in the process of building our Advisory Council. If you believe in our work and would like to serve as an Advisor, please contact email@example.com.
“I’ve found my niche in life despite being in prison for 42 years. I have found that prisons are created internally and are truly found everywhere. I have also discovered that the secrets to break down prison walls are inside each person and I treasure sharing this realness with people. I keep my light glowing through expressing my inner thoughts, vibes and feelings in my poetry and prose writing.”
John R. Whitman, PhD
John is the Director and Executive Producer of Camisary, Inc., co-founded the Museum for Black Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Washington, DC, and taught in graduate schools at American University, Babson College, Georgetown University, Harvard University, Northeastern University, and The University of Alabama in Huntsville. John’s photographs have been purchased byThe National Geographic Magazine and other publications. He is co-author of Understanding the Social Economy of the United States (University of Toronto, 2015) and Delivering Satisfaction and Service Quality (American Library Association, 2001), has published chapters in textbooks on entrepreneurship and law, including in Intellectual Property, Entrepreneurship, and Social Justice (Elgar, 2015), and authored scholarly articles published in peer reviewed journals. He has a BA from Boston University, EdM from Harvard University, and PhD from the University of Toronto.
“Incarceration was a catalyst for change in my life. I became a self-taught artist inside, and spent my years building an art therapy program that still runs in D.C.I. today.
Since my release, I have networked relentlessly behind the principles of arts access and opportunity for those who are currently or formerly incarcerated. I am the curator for the Ohio Prison Arts Connection and I created the Returning Artists Guild in 2019. The guild is a network of 25 (and growing) currently and formerly incarcerated artists.
The Returning Artists Guild is the way that I am creating solutions for artists in re-entry with other artists in re-entry. As an artist, I have struggled internally working within the context of the system, even in the arts, because my heart belongs to prison abolitionism. However, I have chosen to continue the work and my goal is not to change everyone’s mind about prison. My goals are more practical: to provide arts access, exhibition opportunities, and a community for incarcerated artists to come home to. For the artists in re-entry, I’m providing a platform, a community, entrepreneurship, exhibition, professional development, workshops, and networking opportunities. If the resources we need exist, I’ll find them; if they don’t exist, I’ll create them.”
Matt Malyon is a writer, teacher, and jail chaplain living in Washington’s Skagit Valley. In 2015 he founded Underground Writing, a creative writing program serving migrant, incarcerated, recovery, and other at-risk communities through literary engagement and personal restoration. Matt is also the Founder of One Year Writing in the Margins, an initiative “challenging teachers and writers to spend one year facilitating creative writing workshops outside the academy, in at-risk communities, where the transforming powers of reading and writing can be a matter of life and death”.
A ceramics artist who has headed the William James Association since 2001, Laurie has facilitated Arts-in-Corrections programs for incarcerated men, women and youth since 1989. Collaborating with the California Arts Council and others during the 1990’s, she facilitated the development of programs for the California Youth Authority and Arts in Mental Health. Over the past 15 years, she has worked successfully with the National Endowment for the Arts’ Office of Accessibility to establish artist-in-residence programs with five facilities run by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. She has a degree in Economics and Community Studies from UC-Santa Cruz and currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County.
Marc Mauer, Executive Director of The Sentencing Project, is one of the country’s leading experts on sentencing policy, race and the criminal justice system. He has directed programs on criminal justice policy reform for 40 years, and is the author of some of the most widely-cited reports and publications in the field. The Atlantic magazine has described him as a scholar who has “reframed how Americans view crime, race, and poverty in the public sphere.” His 1995 report on racial disparity and the criminal justice system led the New York Times to editorialize that the report “should set off alarm bells from the White House to city halls – and help reverse the notion that we can incarcerate our way out of fundamental social problems.” In 2018 Mauer was named a “Frederick Douglass 200” awardee as one of 200 individuals “who best embody the spirit and work of Frederick Douglass.” Race to Incarcerate, Mauer’s groundbreaking book on how sentencing policies led to the explosive expansion of the U.S. prison population, was a semifinalist for the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award in 1999. A second edition was published in 2006 and a 2013 graphic novel version was cited by the American Library Association as one of the “Great Graphic Novels” of the year. Mauer is also the co-editor of Invisible Punishment, a 2002 collection of essays by prominent criminal justice experts on the social cost of imprisonment, and co-author of The Meaning of Life: The Case for Abolishing Life Sentences.
Lateef Mtima is a Professor of Law at the Howard University School of Law. After graduating with honors from Amherst College, Professor Mtima received his J.D. degree from Harvard Law School, where he was the co-founder and later editor-in-chief of the Harvard BlackLetter Journal. Mtima is the Founder and Director of the Institute for Intellectual Property and Social Justice, an accredited Non-governmental Organization Member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
Carole Alden was born 1960 in Orleans, France to American parents, and grew up primarily in northern ldaho and Colorado. Her dad was a forestry professor and mother a librarian. Nature and self education were the things she was exposed to the most as a child. They continue to guide the majority of her work. Carole married young and had five children from two marriages that spanned twenty years. She has no formal education nor art training beyond high school. Drawing was something she took up in prison. Prior to that, Carole was a fiber artist with pieces in multiple museum collections. She taught herself to crochet while incarcerated and continues to create a variety of sculptures and wall hangings for venues ranging from political to natural.
Born and raised in Washington D.C, Chris grew up under extremely difficult circumstances. Poverty, drug addiction, and gun violence was the everyday norm in his community. At the age of 17, he was charged with a crime, convicted, and sentenced to natural life in prison. It was during times of isolation that he decided to not only to turn his life around, but to make a difference in the lives of people who currently live in poverty-stricken communities similar to his childhood surroundings. “Many years ago, I committed my life to self-improvement and helping others. I sat in a dark cell and wrote up what I now call my Master Plan. A plan to build a business empire and help others.”
Judy Dworin is a dance/theater artist and educator who is committed to giving voice and inspiring social action through her work with the Judy Dworin Performance Project (JDPP), which she founded in 1989. JDPP provides award-winning dance/theater performance that speaks to social justice issues through its Ensemble; a noted in-school educational residency program, Moving Matters! and Bridging Boundaries, a comprehensive arts intervention program partnered with social work for those affected by incarceration. Judy is a Professor Emerita at Trinity College, where she established the Dance Program and chaired the Theater and Dance Department for many years. Judy’s year-long performance residency with women at York Correctional Institution over the past 16 years has been the generative seed for the development of a multi-faceted residency outreach to populations affected by incarceration, providing arts engagements to children and youth with parents in prison; York mothers and their children; Cybulski CI Dads and their children; women and men returning home from prison; and, most recently, women in the new W.O.R.T.H. unit at York CI for 18 to 25 year-olds. A 30-minute documentary of JDPP’s prison outreach, Making Me Whole. Prison, Art & Healing was filmed and broadcast by Connecticut Public Television in October 2017 and is available at https://cptv.org/making-me-whole/.
Annie Buckley is an award-winning professor and the director of the School of Art + Design at San Diego State University. She founded Prison Arts Collective, a statewide program dedicated to expanding access to the transformative power of the arts to incarcerated people in California. She has presented her art and advocacy work at national and international conferences including in Ireland and Belgium and her creative practice embraces image, text, and participatory practice.
The Justice Arts Coalition Steering Committee was launched at the 2015 Arts In Corrections Conference, where approximately 40 people met in two facilitated sessions to discuss the possibility of creating a national network to support the work of organizations and individuals across the field. A group of volunteers formed as the Steering Committee to investigate the needs and benefits of such an organization. Since then, the Steering Committee has surveyed the field, completed a feasibility study, and laid the groundwork for JAC, which they determined should grow out of the Prison Arts Coalition website. Over the last few years, Steering Committee members have contributed endless hours, valuable wisdom, and immense amounts of enthusiasm towards the development of JAC, and many will continue to do so as Advisors and Board members.
Alma Robinson, Executive Director of CA Lawyers for the Arts
Laurie Brooks, Executive Director of the William James Association
Kyes Stevens, Founder/Director of Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project
Curt Tofteland, Founder/Director Shakespeare Behind Bars
Victoria Sammartino, Founder of Voices UnBroken
Ella Turenne, Founder of BlacWomyn Beautiful
Freddy Gutierrez, Teaching Artist at the Artistic Ensemble
Henry Frank, Intern at the William James Association
Jane Golden, Director of Philadelphia Mural Arts
Laura Pacenco, Director of Project Paint
Beth Thielen, Teaching Artist
Lesley Currier, Founder/Director of Marin Shakespeare
Mary Cohen, Founder/Director of Oakdale Community Choir
Katherine Vockins, Founder/Director of Rehabilitation Through the Arts
Kat Kambes, Director of Operations at Jail Guitar Doors
Wendy Jason, Manager of the Prison Arts Coalition website